I recently had an opportunity to think long and hard regarding the whole saying Merry Christmas issue. It's of course not a new debate but it can lead to some pretty heated discussions, usually involving political views. But I never really gave it much thought and this prompted my own internal debate on the topic. Warning: personal views you may not agree with are ahead.
I have always said both, honestly without much conscious thought to either one. It should be noted that I was raised Catholic and still consider myself (mostly) Catholic, with a good dose of Buddhist philosophy thrown in. I know, this could be a debate of a whole other kind, but it works for me. I'll try to stay on track.
For Catholics and Christians, Christmas marks the birth of Jesus. It's a celebration of his birthday. We say "Merry Christmas" to mark this occasion, much the way you'd say Happy Birthday to someone on their birthday. We say it at our house and I say it to my family, since I know they are all Catholics (or at least a person raised Catholic / Christian living the life of an evil sinner, oh my there's another debate). But starting the week of Thanksgiving I also say "Happy Holidays", which to me includes the entire season. A catch-all term that covers November 25 to January 2nd. It's wishing someone happiness for this entire time, not just on December 25. The time that seems to be filled with mass commercialization, shop at 5am for the lowest prices, fake evergreens, a great new appetizer recipe, parties, eggnog, gigantic electronic snow globes, Frosty, Rudolph, cookies, and last but not least Santa Claus, a purportedly adult elf with German heritage who gives gifts to only good little girls and boys. Those components, all of which I LOVE I might add, scream "HOLIDAY". They don't however, in my own opinionated opinion, have a thing to do with Jesus or God, whom I also love.
I also say Happy Holidays when I am not sure what is the religious persuasion of the person receiving my greeting. Since after all, it is a greeting or a wish of good wills that you are GIVING, which is what the season is all about anyway. When you give a gift you consider the recipient, not your own wants. It is not a moment to announce your own religious beliefs, but rather a small token, a considerate exchange of wishes, a good day to you sir.
Maybe this the crux of the differing opinions.
I believe we should be allowed to say Merry Christmas. And Happy Holidays and Happy Hanukah and Kwanza. They all have different meanings for both the giver and the recipient, but the end message is the same. Peace and happiness to you.
But I also believe that not everyone believes what I believe. I am curious to know, what do you believe??